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A few years ago, I attended the P&G Global Alumni Conference in Madrid Spain. Amongst the impressive line-up of topics covered by an inspiring group of speakers, was a presentation entitled ‘The Future of Learning’.  Essentially, the takeaway from that session was: ongoing, continuous learning is critical to successfully navigating the exponential change we will see on the job front over the next decade.

As an executive who has dedicated much of the past 25 years to enabling sales professionals to be their best through learning and coaching – it set my mind on fire thinking about what this means for my industry – and in fact for every CEO that has a mandate to grow their key talent from within. I’ve long understood that learning is critical to success.  But today and going forward, it’s more important than ever.

One of my biggest insights around learning is that it’s an individual sport. It’s not a team sport. Nor an organizational event. I recall one of our training sessions early in my career. One participant caught my attention. He did not engage. He asked few questions. He participated in very few of the lively discussions. He stared at his notebook, writing furtively. I really felt he was not getting the full value of the day’s training, so I wandered by to see what he was doing. When I looked over his shoulder at his notebook, there were pages of detailed notes that he had written. At the conclusion of the class, this participant came up to me and said, ‘This was the best training session I EVER attended!’  I really understood; people learn very differently.

Faced with exponential change, fully understanding how to maximize learning, retention and application is imperative. According to Forbes, without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement of a topic, approximately 50% of the content is not retained within five weeks of having first learned it, much less applied. Within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost. So being exposed to new learning once isn’t an option for teams that want to succeed. Sustainability is key.

Yet education and learning systems around the globe have been slow to support the required shift to ongoing, real-time, individualized learning. This is not to say that I believe there is no place in this era for instructor-led classroom education in the context of learning and training. There is – and always will be in some form or another. But I believe that it is our human instinct to want to learn in ways that are natural to us – whatever they may be. Scientists and psychologists have developed a number of different models to understand the different ways that people learn best.

The Social Science Research Network reports 65% of adults are visual learners. They are effective visualizers and work well with self-instruction opportunities. However, they often find auditory learning ineffective and may lose interest during discussions or lectures.

One popular theory, the VARK model developed by Neil Flemming in 1987, identifies four primary types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Each learning type responds best to a different method of teaching. For example, Auditory learners will remember information best after reciting it back to the presenter, while Kinesthetic learners will jump at the chance to participate in a hands-on activity.

As producers and providers of training and development programs, we tend to cater to styles that are most like our own. And chances are – you will impact about 1 in 4 learners with your current approaches. Now consider my opening epiphany about the exponential rate of change and the need for ongoing and continual learning. Considering that, I am confident that developing 1 of 4 members of your team simply isn’t enough.

Check out to find more tools and tips to take your sales organization from good to outstanding.

Good luck and good selling!

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